Sonic Mania’s Rampant Easter Eggs Enhance The Experience

By Jenni . August 18, 2017 . 12:00pm

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Sonic Mania is a game designed to delight. It is a testament to the love that exists for this series. That means it is filled with references to things we have loved about the series over the years. There are all of these fantastic callbacks, placed in blatant or subtle places throughout the game. As people progress (and earn medals in Bonus Stages), you get access to so many wonderful things. All of these things are absolutely spoilers, so keep reading only if you’re okay about hearing about secrets and cameos.


Why don’t we start with the Debug Mode and Level Select? These are Sonic the Hedgehog series staples and are present in Sonic Mania. On the PlayStation 4, Debug Mode unlocks under Secrets after earning Bonus Stage silver medals. (I am unclear on how many, as I just sort of opened my menu and found new options there.) Debug Mode lets you place items, see how various parts of the level work, skip ahead, quickly end the level, and do some pretty crazy thing. Once Debug Mode is unlocked on the PlayStation 4, turning it on, then going to No Save in Mania and holding Square, Triangle, and Options will give you access to the level select. On the Switch it is a bit easier, as you can press B and Y on the title screen, then press the positive button when “Press any button” appears. Pressing X in a level after choosing one from this Level Select will immediately grant you access to debug mode. 


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The Bonus Stage silver medals unlock quite a few other delightful bonuses that are either callbacks to previous games or nods to the fandom. As a reminder, you trigger these by having 25 rings or more at a mid-level checkpoint. These give you access to a bonus stage, where getting all the Blue Spheres in it gives you a silver medal. One silver medal gives you access to Sonic 3’s Insta-Shield and Sonic CD’s Super Peel Out, with you able to choose which one replaces Jump Dash in a No Save game with Sonic. & Knuckles mode,  Mean Bean, a No Save option that lets any character (even Knuckles) play with a second Knuckles as a partner, is another unlock. Mean Bean, a truncated version of Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, shows up in Extras after earning a few medals. It has single and versus multiplayer modes. Debug Mode, which we went over earlier, is the last bonus to unlock.


But the unlocks are only part of the fun. The care Sonic Mania takes in paying attention to other games matters just as much. Paying homage to beloved characters is important here. Some of these are immediately recognizable. I mean, it’s hard to not notice Metal Sonic when he shows up as the Stardust Speedway Zone act 2 boss. And of course those are Sonic the Hedgehog 2 style Silver Sonics with him. When the Amy Rose reference appears in act 2 of Metallic Madness Zone, it might not be as noticeable. Dr. Eggman’s gachapon can dispense robotic Amy Roses that try to hug Sonic as an attack. Only people who play every Sonic the Hedgehog game will catch when Heavy Magician turns into Sonic the Fighters’ Bark the Polar Bear, Bean the Dynamite, and Fang the Sniper in Mirage Saloon Zone’s act 2 fight. Though, all three do appear on wanted posters in the level ahead of that, so there is some foreshadowing. But one of the most interesting cameos is in the Flying Battery Zone act 1 boss fight. It marks the first game appearance of Splats the rabbit Badnik. Sega designed it for Sonic the Hedgehog, but didn’t make it into the final game. As a reminder of how they were “trashed,” they appear in this trash compactor boss fight.


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There are even references to Sega itself. In Studiopolis, there are three rather specific and fun ones. In one of the acts, there are a number of placards that can be flipped. When the tiles are turned over, they read, “Genesis does.” This is a reference to the ad campaign with the slogan, “Genesis does what Nintendon’t.” There are Club Spin signs, a reference to the Club Sega arcades found in Japan. (The font and color scheme are identical, as anyone who has played Yakuza will attest.) Finally, there is one reminder that was pointed out by Digital Foundary’s John Linneman. There were technical difficulties during the Sonic 25th Anniversary live stream on July 22, 2017, with audible buzzing occurring during the entire presentation. After beating the act 2 boss, which involves a bird giving a weather report, a technical difficulty screen appears on the in-game television. While this is on, that same buzzing can be heard.


Sonic Mania has all of these wonderful references in it. As you run through levels, you’re tempted to go slow, even though you’ve gotta go fast. It is so easy to pass by these references to important people, places, and things. But then, taking care to collect rings can mean getting access to the Bonus Stages that offer opportunities to earn even more special features. There is nothing sillier, and perhaps even more satisfying, than getting Knuckles & Knuckles set up or using the Debug Mode to make it a little easier to get Chaos Emeralds.

Sonic Mania is available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. It will come to the PC on August 29, 2017.

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